The Associated Students Legislative Council is still refusing to reveal the issues discussed during their closed meeting Wednesday night.
That evening, the council barred the public from a portion of their weekly meeting, later announcing they had discussed “pending litigation.” The matter was not disclosed. While there had been questions of the legality of the closed session, UC General Counsel David Birnbaum said UC Associated Students legislative bodies do not fall under any open meeting laws in the state of California. Some state attorneys, however, find the absence of an explicit code applied to UC student government meetings disconcerting.
“The Brown Act doesn’t apply to the university at all,” Birnbaum said. “There are no legal requirements for A.S. UC that it should be open. It’s a policy choice, not a legal mandate.”
UC A.S. legislative bodies are currently the only California higher public education student governments not held to open meetings laws other than what is stipulated in their by-laws.
According to the A.S. Legal Code, a spontaneous motion such as an impromptu request for a closed meeting can only be considered if it meets one of the following criteria: an emergency situation falling within 10 days of the meeting or if the issue arose after the agenda deadline. A written statement must be given to the Internal Vice President, and closed meetings “shall be held only upon a two-thirds vote.”
“For the closed session we had, there were no official decisions made,” Internal Vice President Chris Wendle said. “This was solely to talk about us [A.S. Legislative Council].”
Under state law, meetings of the UC Regents and the student governments of California State Universities and community colleges are subject to laws regarding open meetings. The Regents adhere to the Bagley-Keene Act, whereas CSU student legislative bodies are bound by the Gloria Romero Act of 2000.
“The Bagley-Keene Act does not apply specifically to the A.S. at Cal States, so a couple years ago the legislature crafted a gloss for A.S. at the CSU level,” Jim Ewert, legal counsel at the California Newspaper Publishers Association, said. “The Brown Act was interpreted by the attorney general to apply to associated student body organizations at the community college level.”
Ewert said he finds the omission of UC student governments from open meeting laws unsettling.
“It’s very strange,” Ewert said. “I find it disconcerting.”
Attorney Rachel Matteo-Boehm of Holme, Roberts & Owen said the current legal situation leaves much to be desired.
“The applicability of open meeting laws to state universities is kind of a patchwork quilt,” Matteo-Boehm said. “It seems counter-intuitive and it seems wrong. One would think here would be a requirement of openness, but there is not.”